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Writing Stories

Every since we came back to school in January, my class has been thinking about writing stories. We started with a diagram Michael came up with, showing a story’s beginning, middle, and end as the food going into a duck, the food being digested, and the food coming out the other end. Everyone loved the diagram, so I made a copy and put it up on the wall, to remind us that all stories need a beginning, middle, and end.

Then, we brainstormed what we like for each of those three things. Some of my students like beginnings where the main character introduces each person; some like stories that begin right in the middle of the action. Some of us like middles that jump backward and forward in time, and some like middles that have a running joke or mystery. Some of us like cliffhanger endings, and some of us prefer a happy ending that wraps up all the story lines.

Each week since, we’ve revisited one of those topics, and in their journals, students have practiced writing only beginnings one week, only endings the next—and we’ve expanded to practice writing in ways that show who a character is, and brainstorming great settings for our stories. Then, the next day, students are free to write stories of their choosing, many of which are ongoing from week to week, and to incorporate any elements they like from their journal entries.

It’s been a lot of fun seeing different students light up with ideas each week—”At least three cool settings?! But I’ve already thought of five before leaving the carpet!” After the February break, we’ll move into writing stories with a bit more deliberation, with the goal of publishing one story per student before spring break.

Renata McAdams

is our grade 3-4 classroom teacher. She has taught in a variety of public, charter, and independent schools, including a combined 3-5 classroom in Ann Arbor, Mich., for two years. Rentata graduated from Vassar College and received her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio, and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia with her husband (then-fiancé) in August 2014.

In her free time, Renata enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and reading.

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